THE AFRICAN QUEEN  [Special Restoration Edition] [Blu-ray] [UK Release] From the Golden Age of cinema ‘The African Queen’ is a truly magnificent film adapted from a novel by C.S. Forester. Starring Humphrey Bogart in his Oscar-winning portrayal of Charlie Allnut, the slovenly, gin-swilling captain of a tramp steamer called the African Queen, which ships supplies to small East African villages during World War I in August/September 1914. Katharine Hepburn plays Rose Sayer, the maiden-lady sister of a prim British missionary [Robert Morley].
When invading Germans kill the missionary and level the village, Allnut offers to take Rose back to civilisation. She can't tolerate his drinking or bad manners, he isn't crazy about her imperious, judgmental attitude. However it does not take long before their passionate dislike turns to love. Together the disparate duo works to ensure their survival on the treacherous waters and devise an ingenious way to destroy a German gunboat.
‘The African Queen’ may well be the perfect adventure film, its roller-coaster storyline complemented by the chemistry between its stars. Along with masterful direction from John Huston, the wonderful script makes this a rare treat indeed.
The film’s restoration in 2010: ITV STUDIOS Global Entertainment has partnered with Paramount Pictures to save this great classic and restore it back to its former glory. The Original 35mm three strip camera negatives were scanned at high resolution and digitally recombined using restoration tools to repair tears and scratches, remove dirt and stabilise the picture. The soundtrack underwent full digital audio restoration removing clicks, hum, and other audio defects before creating a new Optical soundtrack negative. The Digital files have been output to a high resolution digital cinema File as well as creating a pristine new combined 35mm negative and an HD master. This is a fine example of how today’s technologies can protect and preserve classic films both digitally and photo-chemically for the next 100 years and beyond.
FILM FACT: Awards and Honours: Won an Academy Award® for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Humphrey Bogart). Nominated: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Katharine Hepburn). Best Adapted Screenplay (James Agee and John Huston) and Best Director (John Huston).
Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Bull, Theodore Bikel, Walter Gotell, Peter Swanwick and Richard Marner
Director: John Huston
Producers: John Woolf (uncredited) and Sam Spiegel
Screenplay: C.S. Forester, James Agee and John Huston
Composer: Allan Gray
Cinematography: Jack Cardiff
Video Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 [with black bars either side of the image]
Audio: English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 105 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Studio: ITV Studios Home Entertainment
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: 'The African Queen' has been consistently praised and admired by critics and audiences alike since its 1951 premiere, but for several years John Huston's stirring romantic adventure also carried the dubious distinction of being the only picture on the AFI's list of the 100 Greatest American Movies yet to see a digital release. That frustrating fact sent diehard cinephiles into periodic apoplectic fits, but Paramount, after much wrangling, at last secured and then painstakingly restored the film's original three-strip negative, which had been locked away in a British vault. (According to the studio, all American prints had deteriorated to such a degree they were unsuitable for re-mastering.) And now, after what seems like an eternity, this Holy Grail film hits the home video market not only in standard definition, but also in glorious 1080p Technicolor.
And let me tell you, the wait has been worth it. Classic film fans who don't rhapsodize over this superior effort, which breathes new life into this venerable drama, should head straight to the optometrist, because 'The African Queen' is a kingly specimen that will thrill even the most discriminating high-definition viewers.
Notable for its ambitious location shooting in the Belgian Congo, colourful production history, terrific chemistry between stars Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, and sweet, captivating story (based on the novel by C.S. Forester of Horatio Hornblower fame), 'The African Queen' scored big upon its initial release and hasn't lost any of its lustre since. Bogart won his only Academy Award (beating the likes of Marlon Brando in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and Montgomery Clift in 'A Place in the Sun') for his role as the gruff, grimy, gin-soaked Charlie Allnut, skipper of the African Queen, a rickety riverboat that delivers supplies to, among other places, a small, isolated mission run by the Reverend Samuel Sayer [Robert Morley] and his prim, virtuous sister, Rose [Katharine Hepburn]. Unaware of a major conflict known as World War I, Samuel and Rose are shocked to hear from Charlie about an imminent German invasion, and when Kaiser Wilhelm's soldiers overrun the mission almost on cue, the siblings watch in horror as troops ransack and burn their settlement. The trauma and devastation send Samuel to an early grave, leaving Rose to fend for herself in the wilds of The Dark Continent.
When Charlie stops by to assess damage and offer help, he never dreams the dogged Rose will shanghai him and his boat, taking them on a dangerous journey down river that will continually test their courage and tenacity, all in the hope of finding and destroying the German gunboat that harbours the regional command. Along the way, the dilapidated African Queen must traverse treacherous rapids, cut through dense brush, and survive rough storms, while its two oil-and-water shipmates spar, bicker, and ultimately become smitten. Charlie and Rose's romance is as unlikely and unexpected as it is endearing and cute, and the middle-aged couple often acts like two starry-eyed teens basking in the unsullied bloom of young love. Their strong emotions, however, never weaken their resolve to confront and cripple the wily Germans, but executing their preposterous plan will take every ounce of energy and blind faith they can muster.
The long-standing appeal of 'The African Queen' may be due in part to its against-all-odds attitude and core values of guts and perseverance, but more likely stems from the irresistible appeal of its improbable hero and heroine. The notion that a blasphemous drunk and pious spinster could fall in love, let alone have the audacity to believe they can take down a well-oiled military machine, is both ludicrous and delightful, and Bogart and Hepburn play their roles to the hilt. Never for a moment does their affection seem anything less than genuine, and with a mastery of their craft that few others in the industry possess, the two legendary actors infuse their eccentric, charismatic characters with palpable warmth and spirit.
No stranger to big, outdoorsy tales of indomitable will and chutzpah, John Huston (who teamed with Bogart on the equally rugged and immortal 'The Treasure of the Sierra Madre' just three years before) deftly blends rousing physical sequences with scenes of exquisite tenderness and charm. The director's keen sense of rhythm keeps the story flowing like the river itself, ramping up tension at some points, gently drifting along in others, to create a comfortable mood punctuated by stunning landscape and wildlife shots. The marvellous script (which he co-wrote with James Agee) contains several memorable exchanges, and despite the fact that most of the film is a two-person dialogue, the characters are so richly drawn and brought so vividly to life by the actors, we never tire of them.
Amazingly, 'The African Queen' was not nominated for Best Picture, but both John Huston and Katherine Hepburn did receive nods for Best Director and Actress, respectively. (Huston was beaten by George Stevens for 'A Place in the Sun,' while Hepburn lost to Vivien Leigh's Blanche DuBois.) Yet the lack of awards recognition can't diminish the film's lasting impact or the reverence it engenders. Charlie and Rose, as sweaty and dishevelled as they often appear, and as quirky and stubborn as they often act, are one of the movies' immortal couples, ranking right up there with Scarlett and Rhett, Rick and Ilsa, and Jack and Rose. Their passion may be muted and their age advanced, but they're still quite a pair. And 'The African Queen' is still quite an awesome film.
Blu-ray Video Quality – Film buffs have waited far too long for a digital transfer of 'The African Queen,' so expectations understandably ran high when Paramount announced its 4k restoration of the 1951 film. Working from the original three-strip negative, technicians scanned and digitized each element, then recombined and carefully aligned them before removing any dirt, nicks, and scratches. The process was long and arduous, but any doubts 'The African Queen' might arrive on Blu-ray looking less than its best vanish immediately upon one's first view of this stunningly beautiful rendering. Breath-taking clarity and sharpness, lush colour, and plenty of high-definition pop all belie the picture's advanced age and make this antiquated classic almost seem like a new release.
Details, even in the background, remain well defined, and the driving rain possesses such marvellous clarity, it often looks like little needles falling from the heavens. Close-ups, especially those of Bogart, are sublime, highlighting every nook and cranny in his weathered face, and though Hepburn is photographed in soft focus, her classic features (oh, those cheekbones!) still come across well. Omnipresent beads of sweat are also visible, and the thick brush the pair must hack through is marvellously distinct. The African countryside and wildlife, especially a herd of crocodiles, nearly jump off the screen, often producing a you-are-there effect that thrusts us into the action.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – ITV STUDIOS Global Entertainment has partnered with Paramount Pictures hasn't tried to up the audio on 'The African Queen,' and that's just fine by me. The original mono track gets the job done, producing full-bodied sound with plenty of tonal depth and presence. Though a bit of hiss still remains, the clean-up has been thorough, erasing any age-related pops, crackles, and static. Dynamic range is quite good, with high ends resisting distortion and low ends possessing good weight, and the action-oriented scenes fill the room well, even without multi-channel activity. And just because the track is front-based doesn't mean we don't pick up all the ambience of the African setting. On the contrary, the animal noises, buzzing of bugs, and rustling of foliage all come across quite well. It's not exactly immersive audio, but it represents the locale well. Best of all, dialogue is always clear and easy to comprehend, and Allan Gray's music score benefits from solid fidelity. For an almost 60-year-old soundtrack, 'The African Queen' sounds mighty spry.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: The late Jack Cardiff discusses in great detail how specific sequences from The African Queen were shot, the various technical obstacles the tech crew had to overcome in the Belgian Congo, the diseases the actors struggled with during the shooting, some of the similarities and differences between C.S. Forester's novel and the film, etc. A truly amazing and fascinating audio commentary.
Embracing Chaos: Making The African Queen [60:00] An outstanding in-depth look at the production history of The African Queen, with various comments by Martin Scorsese, Jack Cardiff, film historian Rudy Behlmer, writer/director Nicholas Meyer, Bogart Biographer Eric Lax, assistant director Guy Hamilton, and actor/director/producer Norman Lloyd, among others. In English with optional English SDH subtitles.
Star Profiles [biographies in text format]
1. Humphrey Bogart
2. Katharine Hepburn
3. John Huston
4. Jack Cardiff
1. Poster and Lobby Cards [1:00]
2. Behind the Scenes [4:00]
Theatrical Trailer [3:00] Original Theatrical Trailer for The African Queen.
Finally, The UK Blu-ray release of John Huston's ‘The African Queen’ has two key advantages over the U.S. release and it comes with a very good audio track and a very strong audio commentary by the late Jack Cardiff. If you do not yet have this classic film in your Blu-ray library but keen to get this particular copy, as this is a Region B/2 is the one to purchase. If you reside in a Region A/1 territory only, then keep in mind that the UK Blu-ray release is Region B/2 "locked" and it is worth purchasing a Multi-region Blu-ray Player. Ever since I had this on an NTSC LaserDisc, it has always been a massive favourite of mine, but now I have it in the ultimate Blu-ray format; I am now a very happy bunny and will give me endless hours of enjoyment and an hour to have it is my extensive Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
Directed by John Huston, this film attracted increased attention following the death of Katherine Hepburn and I fervently hope that it will soon be available in the DVD format. Of course, she is superb as Rose Sayer and her performance may well be her most fulfilled as she (Rose) evolves from a priggish spinster who initially views Charlie Alnutt (Bogart) as something to be scraped from his boat but over time develops grudging respect, admiration, and then even love for him. For whatever reasons, the film was nominated for only five Academy Awards and received just one (Bogart for best actor) but during the 52 years since its release, it has achieved well-deserved stature as a "classic."
Back to Katherine Hepburn for a moment. According to her own account, she was unsure how to portray Rose. Huston suggested that she play the role as if she were Eleanor Roosevelt. Throughout much of the film, she faithfully follows that suggestion. In one of the film's most glorious moments, she falls totally in love with the scruffy and sometimes irascible but undeniably courageous Charlie. Of course, by that point in the narrative, he feels the same way about "Rosie." All of her inhibitions and defense mechanisms are overcome by this kind and brave little man with whom she soon faces almost certain death.
It is worth noting that Huston enlisted James Agee to help him with the screenplay, based on C.S. Forester's novel. It is also worth noting that the production lasted much longer than expected and the working conditions in Africa were often intolerable. Those who are curious to know about all this are urged to read Hepburn's own account in The Making of the African Queen: Or How I Went to Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind. It is also worth noting that Robert Morley has a small but pivotal role as Rose's brother, the Reverend Samuel Thayer. His death so early in the film achieves several objectives, notably enabling Rose to depart with Charlie because, had Thayer lived, he would have emphatically refused to leave his mission and she would have insisted on remaining with him. Also, I think, Huston wished to introduce elements of menace and danger as early in the film as appropriate. As a result, he suggests that are many other life-threatening perils through which the small boat and its two passengers must navigate their way.
For these and other reasons, I hold The African Queen in highest regard as I impatiently await the film's availability in the DVD format. Presumably the supplementary materials will be of a quality comparable with those now provided with the DVD version of other great films such as It's a Wonderful Life and Singin' in the Rain. I can almost hear Katherine Hepburn adding, "They better be!"